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  • Working from home = no contexts?

    Hi, all!

    I've been working from home for about ten years and started using GTD about two years ago. I feel like I really don't have a need to use contexts since I'm always at home. @phone, @computer, @home, @work are all the same place. (I used to have @store to keep a shopping list, but my partner and I use a shared iPhone app now.)

    I am a software consultant and have many clients and many projects, so I've been using contexts to categorize my clients. When I was using Toodledo, it was handy to just click on the client's name and see all the stuff related to that client. I recently switched to a paper-based system and write the client's name in the corner of each card, which has been working well.

    I really like the idea of contexts, but they just don't seem to apply to me. Is anyone else in the same boat? (I guess I just assume I'm doing something wrong if I'm the only one doing something that way.)

  • #2
    For me, contexts are about the energy needed to switch between certain kinds of tasks. Changing location is an obvious one but so is going from the computer to the phone or the hoover or my DIY toolbox. Each one of these requires a certain amount of physical and mental setup so it makes sense to crank through similar items as time, context and energy allows.

    Even within @Computer, which is a reasonable context for most people, I find there is too much variation. I'm a freelance computer programmer and it took me a long time to realise that the mental overhead involved with switching between programming projects is just too much to take trivially. Now, each client's project is a context and I'll work within that context for as long as is appropriate.

    I also have an @Email context. It's mainly to stop me getting distracted when I should be cranking out code. Anything I need to send goes into @Email and gets done in one block. Other computer stuff goes into @Internet. It's typically easy, low priority stuff so it's handy to have when my energy is low.

    Another use for these kinds of contexts is I can switch between them when I'm starting to get tired. I find it useful to switch between intellectual and manual tasks. It helps keep my focus so if I've spent an hour writing code or am getting stuck on a difficult problem, I might look for a task to do on my @Housework or @Office lists to refresh myself.

    Hope these thoughts help!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by cfoley View Post
      Hope these thoughts help!
      Yes, they do. I like the distinction about switching costs mental energy. I haven't thought of it that way.

      Thanks!

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Zac View Post
        I really like the idea of contexts, but they just don't seem to apply to me. Is anyone else in the same boat?
        I farm and do computer consulting and work and home are the same location but I find contexts incredibly useful. I have them not just for physical locations (West Orchard Pasture, Shop Building, Red Barn) but also for other "tools" needed (Outside with Help) and for various programs at times as needed (@Computer Grassroots, @Computer Android Programming, @Computer Internet). I do have @Phone Business Hours and @Phone as separate contexts as some calls can be made almost any time and others need to be during regular business hours. I also have 2 contexts for the 2 basic towns we travel to to do shopping. Reason is that one of them is 75 miles away, when we are there we need todo all the errands in that location to save fuel.

        It takes a lot of energy to change focus from one app to another or from one pace to another so I try to minimize that. Just because I can choose to be in any context I have almost any time doesn't mean that contexts are not useful.

        Feel free to create, use and delete contexts on a whim as you need them.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Zac View Post
          Hi, all!

          I've been working from home for about ten years and started using GTD about two years ago. I feel like I really don't have a need to use contexts since I'm always at home. @phone, @computer, @home, @work are all the same place. (I used to have @store to keep a shopping list, but my partner and I use a shared iPhone app now.)

          I am a software consultant and have many clients and many projects, so I've been using contexts to categorize my clients. When I was using Toodledo, it was handy to just click on the client's name and see all the stuff related to that client. I recently switched to a paper-based system and write the client's name in the corner of each card, which has been working well.

          I really like the idea of contexts, but they just don't seem to apply to me. Is anyone else in the same boat? (I guess I just assume I'm doing something wrong if I'm the only one doing something that way.)
          I just stumbled on something yesterday about this that you may find useful:

          You have to walk that fine line between: how many different ways do I want to keep all these different segments; how easily do I want to be able to review them, and how confusing is it if I put too many things together in one list? I recommend you just get started, try out the most common ones (Agendas, Anywhere, Calls, Computer, Home, Errands, Office), and give yourself permission to change or enhance your system to fit your world as you move forward. - David Allen

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          • #6
            Somewhere in his books David Allen says that people who work from home sometimes have difficulty because, not having to separate things into contexts, they may be more likely to allow poorly-defined actions onto their lists. Having to decide what the context is forces you to define the task. For example, "contact Susan about X" is not specific enough to be a GTD next action, but "email Susan about X" or "phone Susan about X" can be.

            If you have actions that you're procrastinating, they may be insufficiently defined as single physical next actions. If you don't have trouble with that, then putting everything into one context may be fine for you. If you do, then finding a way to divide things into contexts even when everything is at home could help solve that problem.

            What about things to do in different rooms, or things to do when you've washed your hands in order to prepare food and don't want to get them dirty again, versus other times. What about things to do when you have lots of mental energy, or when you don't. What about things you like to do in the morning, or in the afternoon. What about things you like to do while thinking something over, like putting away clean dishes while working out the wording in your head for an email you need to do some thinking about. What about things to do while talking on the phone (e.g. stretching exercises that take very little mental capacity and would be boring to do by themselves).

            Comment


            • #7
              What works for me

              I've been working from home for 11 years and that's the entire time I've been a GTD-er. I've tried about every configuration of contexts you can dream up--by energy level, by amount of time I have available, etc. What works best for me is to drop the "Office" context and split a few (like @Computer) out into business and personal and sometimes I break it down by software program too. Other than that, I use the basic contexts Kelly has recommended. I also have "Waiting for" (my favorite!) and, if it gets unwieldy, I split that between business and personal too.

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks...

                Thanks, all, for the thoughtful replies.

                One thing I've noticed about this forum is that people take the time to write useful and thoughtful replies, which I really appreciate.

                You're all outstanding. Happy holidays to all!

                - Zac

                Comment


                • #9
                  under pressure to be useful and thoughtful...

                  Originally posted by Zac View Post
                  One thing I've noticed about this forum is that people take the time to write useful and thoughtful replies, which I really appreciate.
                  I've worked out of my home for the past... well... lots and lots of years... more than two decades... god, I sound old! And contexts were challenging. Sometimes they still are. I often forget that I can change them whenever I want. There are some great suggestions in this thread for alternate contexts if the common ones don't work for you.

                  It's all about picking compartments - but only if the compartments streamline what you do.

                  I've said it before but my most helpful list is "Just Get It Done, Dena". It's a list of actions I just have to get off my butt about, things I'm procrastinating on. And it's motivating... and it's a context. And I can dump it whenever I like - preferably when things are back under control.

                  I like your idea about handling client to dos - especially if all of the work is done from one home office. Are there ever things you have do for multiple clients at once? For example, for me it's invoicing. I just can't seem to invoice as I go so each week or two weeks I invoice everybody at once... and I have a context list for that. Just a thought.

                  Does it matter that you don't separate by context? Only you can know. I think it's a big help for most people, but you have an unusual circumstance.

                  Keep us posted!

                  Dena

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    About three months ago, I had split a long Computer list into functional groups like Writing and Email (In contrast, my location-based context lists are usually short.) It was a good change to make, but around Christmas both my elderly parents went into the hospital for unrelated problems, and that functional grouping did not work so well. I switched the functional computer contexts into time- and energy-based contexts like Full Focus (for things that need the most time and attention), Short (around 5-15 minutes) and Braindead. This turned out to be very helpful in sorting out what I really could do at a given moment. I may not keep my contexts this way, but it has been helpful.

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